Our Artistic Director Gregory Doran pays tribute to Guy Woolfenden, our former Composer and Director of Music, who died last week.

Guy Woolfenden (1937-2016) “A gentleman well skill'd in music”

It is with great sadness that we heard of the death at the weekend of Guy Woolfenden. He died peacefully on 15 April.

Guy joined the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1961, and was Head of Music here for 37 years. He composed more than 150 scores for the company and was made an Honorary Associate Artist  in 1966. He wrote music for film, radio, television and for the concert hall, and composed three musicals and a children's opera. His musical version of The Comedy of Errors, written with Trevor Nunn for the RSC, won the lvor Novello and Society of West End Theatre Awards for the best British musical.

Guy Woolfenden
© RSC – Image Licensing

Guy completed the Shakespeare canon with his score for the 1991 production of The Two Gentlemen of Verona and has composed music for every Shakespeare play in productions with the Royal Shakespeare Company. Among the highlights of his long and productive career with us were scores for Peter Hall's legendary history cycle The Wars of the Roses, Trevor Nunn's 1972 Roman season, the award-winning musical version of The Comedy of Errors and Nunn's productions of Henry IV, Parts 1 and 2, which opened the Barbican Theatre in 1982. With Terry Hands, Guy collaborated on celebrated productions of Henry V, Merry Wives of Windsor and the complete History cycle. Other notable productions for which Guy wrote the music include Hamlet with Kenneth Branagh, directed by Adrian Noble, and Bill Alexander's productions of Richard III and The Merchant of Venice, with Antony Sher.

Guy's theatre credits also encompass a large number of non-Shakespeare productions including Greek theatre, Jacobean, Restoration, and 19th and early 20th century classics. He also composed scores for many contemporary plays.

Guy was a marvelously witty man, and he concluded his delightful toast to the immortal memory of the Bard in 2002: "I would like to say what a huge debt of gratitude I personally owe to William Shakespeare, and the theatre that so proudly bears his name. Working with those magical plays has definitely made me a better musician than I would have been, and enriched my life in more ways than I can say. Ende gut, alles gut".

Gregory Doran

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